Gaming Eye Strain: Effects of Prolonged Continuous Computer Gaming on Physical and Ocular Symptoms and Binocular Vision Functions in Young Healthy Individuals

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Gaming Eye Strain: Effects of Prolonged Continuous Computer Gaming on Physical and Ocular Symptoms and Binocular Vision Functions in Young Healthy Individuals

Gaming eye strain is a problem many players deal with. This article investigates the impact of prolonged computer gaming on physical symptoms and visual functions among college students. The study found that continuous computer gaming for four hours resulted in various physical discomforts, including ocular fatigue, neck and shoulder discomfort, dryness, and blurred vision.

Participants: Fifty Korean healthy college students, aged 19-35 years, were randomly enrolled in the study. The inclusion criteria included having no near or distance vision problems, normal stereopsis, and no reported history of ocular disease.

Study Design: The study used an immersive computer gaming setup, with participants playing the game “Diablo III” on a desktop computer screen for a continuous period of 4 hours. This was done without a break, simulating prolonged computer gaming conditions.

Questionnaire: Participants completed a modified questionnaire designed to assess the effects of virtual reality viewing on physical and ocular symptoms. The questionnaire included 13 items related to physical and ocular symptoms, which were graded on a scale of 0-4.

Visual Function Measurements: Visual functions were measured under habitual viewing conditions. Visual acuity was assessed using visual charts, and the near point of convergence (NPC) and near point of accommodation (NPA) were measured to evaluate convergence amplitude and the amplitude of accommodation, respectively. Phoria, which assesses eye alignment, was measured using Howell phoria cards. Accommodative and vergence facilities were evaluated, and blink rate was measured using a video camera.

The findings of the study suggest that prolonged computer gaming sessions can lead to changes in visual functions, specifically the near point of convergence (NPC), near point of accommodation (NPA), and phoria. NPC refers to the ability to bring the eyes together to focus on a near object, NPA measures the ability to adjust the focus for near objects, and phoria indicates the resting position of the eyes when focusing on an object.

The participants in the study reported experiencing gaming eye strain, ocular symptoms such as ocular fatigue, tired eyes, and dryness. The researchers also observed disturbances in accommodative and vergence functions after the gaming session. Accommodation refers to the adjustment of the lens in the eye to maintain clear vision at different distances, while vergence refers to the coordinated movement of the eyes to maintain binocular vision. These disturbances were likely a result of fatigue in the muscles responsible for these visual functions, both within the eye (intraocular muscles) and outside the eye (extraocular muscles).

Another significant finding was the significant decrease in blinking rate during gaming. Blinking is essential for maintaining a healthy tear film on the surface of the eye and preventing dryness. The reduced blinking rate during gaming can contribute to ocular fatigue and dryness.

Overall, the study indicates that prolonged computer gaming can have negative effects on gaming eye strain visual functions and ocular comfort. The static posture during gaming may lead to discomfort in the neck and shoulder areas. The observed changes in visual functions and ocular symptoms highlight the importance of considering visual health and implementing strategies to mitigate visual fatigue and discomfort in esports athletes.

Clinical takeaways for healthcare professionals working in esports include:

  1. Awareness of Physical Discomfort: Healthcare professionals should be aware of the potential physical discomforts associated with prolonged computer gaming. These may include ocular fatigue, neck and shoulder discomfort, and dryness. Educating gamers about the importance of taking breaks, maintaining good posture, and performing stretching exercises can help alleviate these discomforts.
  2. Visual Function Assessment: Regular assessment of visual functions such as NPC, NPA, and phoria is crucial for identifying changes and potential visual disturbances in esports athletes. Evaluating accommodative and vergence facilities can provide insights into the impact of prolonged gaming on binocular vision. Monitoring these visual parameters can help detect early signs of visual fatigue and guide interventions.
  3. Blinking Exercises: Encouraging esports athletes to perform blinking exercises during gaming sessions can help mitigate ocular fatigue and dryness. These exercises promote proper blinking technique, improve tear film stability, and reduce the frequency of incomplete blinks. Healthcare professionals can provide guidance on blink training techniques and emphasize the importance of intentional blinking.
  4. Rest and Gazing into the Distance: Healthcare professionals should emphasize the significance of taking regular breaks and gazing into the distance to minimize accommodation and vergence disturbances. Longer rest periods can help reduce both physical and ocular fatigue. Educating gamers about the benefits of periodic rest and visual relaxation techniques can contribute to maintaining visual health.

Source: Lee JW, Cho HG, Moon BY, Kim SY, Yu DS. Effects of prolonged continuous computer gaming on physical and ocular symptoms and binocular vision functions in young healthy individuals. PeerJ. 2019 Jun 4;7:e7050. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7050. PMID: 31198647; PMCID: PMC6555390.

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